Wednesday Word: Failure

I spent last Friday and Saturday at our diocesan convention. I wasn't sure what to expect, although I had a general idea, having been to a number of conventions in Spokane, Montana, and Oregon. For the most part, a convention in Montana is a convention in Oregon is a convention in Maryland.

But there were a few things that got my attention, and one of those things was Bp. Sutton's comparison of church to baseball. In his comparison, he pointed out that the greatest hitters of all time failed 70 percent of the time. I looked it up, and actually the greatest hitters of all time failed between 64 and 68 percent of the time, while most other hitters fail between 70 and 75 percent of the time. In what other job, meteorologist included, can you fail that often and still keep your job? The answer, of course, is none.

But do you know what a manager does when one of his players has a failure rate of 75 percent? He puts him in the lineup for the next game. And the game after that. And the game after that. Maybe the player will manage to have a failure rate of 70 percent. Or maybe his fielding abilities make his failure at hitting a baseball tolerable.

The point here, as the bishop pointed out, isn't about focusing on the failure rate, the point is about how that failure is managed.

In other words, we can focus and dwell on what we get wrong, or we can celebrate and focus on that which we get right.

It's easy for us to focus on the failures. The sermon didn't talk about the crucifixion. The sermon spent too much time on the crucifixion. There were gaffes in the liturgy. The music was too slow. The music was too fast. The bulletin wasn't correct. Dinner was too late. Dinner was too early. The food was too salty. The food wasn't salty enough. And on and on and on. Even Jesus, as the bishop said, could be considered a failure in some circles. After all, as the leader of a new way of thinking, he was executed by the state. And tradition holds that of his twelve original followers, one committed suicide, ten were also eventually executed, and one was exiled to the island of Patmos (although this later claim is most certainly not accurate).

And yet, we in the Church don't talk about those failures. We talk about and focus on those things that went right. Are we willing to do that in the life of the parish? Maybe the sermon wasn't to your liking; but was there something in it that made you think? Maybe the music didn't suit your taste; but were you able to sing God's praises? Maybe we haven't increased our attendance by 10, 15, or 20 percent; but did you notice we had one new family this past Sunday?

Life in the Church, like baseball, isn't about focusing on our 70 percent failure rate. Life in the Church is about celebrating the fact that we're batting 300.



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